LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - At least 14 people were injured, three of them critically, in a suspicious pre-dawn fire at a residential hotel in Los Angeles that is being investigated as "criminal in nature," city fire officials said on Tuesday.
Two of the critically hurt patients were in "grave condition," one with severe burns and another with respiratory injuries, while the third suffered a severe fracture when she jumped from the upper floor of the two-story building, officials said.
Other residents of the hotel, which operates as a low-rent apartment house for the poor, had threatened to jump as flames closed in, but firefighters managed to raise ladders and rescue the remaining occupants trapped on the second floor, the fire department said in a statement.
Fourteen people were treated at the scene for injuries and 12 of those were sent on to the hospital, including the critical patients, fire officials said.
Among those taken to the hospital was a police officer who suffered smoke inhalation trying to get people out of the building, the fire department statement said.
The blaze erupted before dawn in a 90-year-old hotel in the city's San Pedro district. The flames originated in a first-floor unit and quickly spread through much of the building, leaving half of the 14 units damaged, fire officials said.
No details were immediately available about how the fire started, but Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Jaime Moore said the blaze "is being investigated as criminal in nature."
(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andre Grenon)
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